Friday, April 23, 2010

Young At Heart

Last night I went to see the Young@Heart Chorus at the St. Ann's Warehouse Theater in Brooklyn, NY and I truthfully haven't had a more moving and stirring musical experience in quite some time. The chorus is composed entirely of elderly people (the youngest member at the moment is 73) but no way is this just an activity for some bored and lonely senior citizens. While they did throw in a few old standards, their repertoire is remarkably varied and rather contemporary with selections ranging from Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Sly & The Family Stone to The Replacements, Wilco, Joy Division, Nirvana and The Buzzcocks. I take my hat off to their directors Bob Cilman and Ken Maiuri for the depth of their musical knowledge as well as their arrangements. These remarkable performers don't try to hide their age by trying to look young. In fact, it is their age, along with some incredible vocal chops, that gives the music much of its power. One of the songs they performed was The Buzzcocks' "What Do I Get", a definite favorite of mine. and hearing it performed by a woman who was probably in her 70's instead of a guy in his 20's or 30's gave it a whole different perspective. Same goes for the incredible performance of Jerry Butler's "Only The Strong Survive" sung by a man who reminded me of a retired English teacher. One of the highlights for me was a rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Missing" which originally appeared as a single in Europe (I told you their musical directors really know their stuff!) and when I got home, found the original online and listened to it, I was disappointed. I liked the Y@H Chorus' version so much better. The same goes for their version of Blondie's "Dreaming" which was sung by a frail looking elderly lady, someone you give up your seat on a crowded subway train to, with one of the most beautiful, crystal clear voices I've heard in quite some time. Although they didn't perform it last night, they have a pretty funny video of "I Wanna Be Sedated" on YouTube which is well worth watching. I went to the show expecting some kind of Sha Na Na for the Geritol Set but what I got was so much more and I was totally blown away. As we of the Rock & Roll generation grow older, it is heartwarming, inspiring, and quite frankly, reassuring to see that the music we love has the power to keep us feeling young even when our backs ache and our knees hurt.

The Lyres - Sick And Tired
Unfortunately, the Lyres (or at least Jeff Connolly) seem to be in retirement these days as I can't remember the last time they played. Jeff was always an incredibly soulful singer and this version of Chris Kenner's classic might be my favorite one of all.
Johnny Soul - Lonely Man
Here's another song I bet Connolly and Co. would do a great job on but even he would have to go some to make me forget Johnny Soul's rockin' original.
Spirit - I Got A Line On You
I've never been a fan of Spirit. To me, most of their music was little more than a whole bunch of noodling with very little real substance. This is the one exception and what an exception it is! Unfortunately, every mix of "...Line" I've ever heard has always sounded kind of weak and watered down, lacking the punch it needs to really send it over the top. I seem to remember The Fleshtones doing a really great version of this at some of their old shows.
Roy Orbison - Land Of 1000 Dances
Back in the 60's many artists would release albums with one or two singles and fill the rest up with some hastily recorded covers of current hits. I don't now if that was Roy's intention here but he really does a terrific job on this song. I especially love the organ playing. Check out this link to see a great live version, probably from around 1968 or so judging by the clothes and hairstyles.
Funkadelic - Hit It And Quit It
Back in the late 60's/early 70's I wasn't quite ready to fully appreciate George Clinton's unique brand of psychedelic, stoned-out funk. Sly & The Family Stone were about as far out as I was willing to go in that particular direction. Better late than never I always say.
The Nerves - When Ya Find Out
More often than not The Nerves are remembered for their original members' subsequent careerts rather than their own output. While that's totally understandable the truth of the matter is that they did record a handful of nice catchy upbeat power-pop tunes, this being one of them.
The Trolls - Don't Come Around
The garage comp database shows at least five bands calling themselves The Trolls back in the mid-60's. The "Don't Come Around" Trolls came from Pueblo, Colorado and had a handful of worthy singles at the time, including a remake of The Stones' "Stupid Girl".
Millie Vernon - Bloodshot Eyes
"'Uh uh! Don't roll them bloodshot eyes at me!" You tell 'em Millie. By the sound of things, she doesn't sound like anyone you'd want to cross. I think this is actually a cover of an Amos Milburn record. According to an undocumented online source, she died of Alzheimers about a year and a half ago. If anyone out there has any more info, please leave an update in the comments section.
Kim Fowley - In My Garage
I've always appreciated Kim Fowley more for his outside productions than his own records. But I've always had a soft spot for this Dylan cop that he did around 1979 or so.
Vashti Bunyan - Some Things Just Stick In Your Mind
I think I kinda screwed up in that the file has a different song title - this is the correct one. It's also a Jagger-Richards song that was probably deemed not suitable for The Stones. Listening to this as I write I can hear that this is not exactly the best rip. I'll try to find another one and repost it at some point.
The Toppers - I'm So Lovesick
Until I got this on a German beat group comp I had never heard of the band or the song. Whoever is singing really has quite a voice and the band does an admirable job backing him up. It's good enough that I have to hope this was a hit somewhere in the world. I also have to wonder what it would have sounded like had The Animals gotten their claws into it (bad pun I know, I'm sorry).
Teenage Fanclub - Escher
Long time followers of this blog know how much I love these guys. This is from their "Thirteen" album. Listening to it again as I write, I can't help but think that this might be a good song for the Young@Heart chorus to try. They have a new album coming out later this year and a link to one of their new songs (no download, just for listening) can be found in the comments section of one of my more recent posts.
Willie Ward And The Warblers - I'm A Madman
I love crazy crap like this! For me it's truly one of life's great gifts to be constantly discovering gems like this that fell through the cracks at the time and are finally getting the appreciation they deserve all these years later.
The Roosters – Ain't Gonna Cry Anymore
According to the garage database, although there were a number of bands called The Roosters, none of them had a record called "Ain't Gonna Cry Anymore" or if they did, it was never on any comp. I think I must have gotten it from one of Gyro's garage comps on the old Twilight Zone blog. For those of you who missed it, here it is in primo sound quality.
AC/DC - Big Balls
Only AC/DC could get away with singing a song called "Big Balls". Nobody ever said they didn't have a sense of humor.
John Coltrane - Straight Street
Recorded in May of 1957, not long after leaving Miles Davis' band, this is Coltrane still in his relatively formative years. Nonetheless, he's still developed his style enough to take the melody to some very interesting places.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Escape From Bellevue

I just finished reading an amazing book that I'm sure will resonate with me for a really long time. The book is "Escape From Bellevue" by Christopher John Campion, who is also the lead singer of indie-rock band Knockout Drops. It's the story of the band's quest for success which went hand-in-glove with his worsening alcoholism and drug addiction. Written from a now clean and sober point of view, he pulls no punches and spares us few details. Over the course of his disease he sank about as low as it is possible to sink yet he tells his story with an honesty and sense of humor that never wallows in self-pity. In fact, at times I had to stop reading because I was laughing so hard. Truth be told, it was fairly easy for me to relate to this book. While I am a moderate drinker at most and haven't gotten high in over 20 years, I am a compulsive overeater. My drug of choice is sugar, usually in the form of chocolate. And while the effects of my particular brand of bingeing may not be as dramatic as with other vices, they are definitely there. I have on too many occasions eaten myself into a sugar stupor and have felt the headache-y effects of the hangover for a few days afterwards. So in a way, Chris' story is also my own, except that he hasn't touched anything in a few years. Powerful reading indeed.

I'm really excited about my latest playlist. Not only do I have a new song by one of my favorite bands, Couple, but I also have some demos by two really good friends of mine that, to the best of my knowledge, are making their downloadable debut here. So enjoy the music and please leave a comment or two. I really enjoy hearing from you.

Barbara Lynn - Oh, Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin')
For many years the only version of "Oh Baby..." I knew was by The Stones from the "Now" album. And while I still prefer their version over the original, it's not hard to see why Mick & Co. were so taken with this song when they heard it back in 1964.
Christopher & The Souls - Diamonds, Rats, and Gum
This came out originally on the super-collectible Pharoh label out of McAllen, Texas. There's an in-depth write up on these guys on the Garage Hangover blogsite so there's not much more I can add here. Except that looking at their picture, you'd never think that these clean cut kids could ever come up with anything as dark and demented as this.
Jay Banerjee - Kate
Michael Lynch - Go To Her
Over the last few years the NYC garage band scene has dwindled to almost nothing. One of the last bright spots was The Anything People who could always be counted on to put on a great show with their mix of obscure covers and like-sounding originals. Unfortunately, the Anythings broke up last year but the good news is that their former members are still musically active on some level and two of them now have new projects going. Jay Banerjee recorded a 3-track CD last winter and "Kate" is my favorite song from that disc. He's got a new band together now called Jay Banerjee & The Hearthrobs who made their debut a few weeks ago at Mercury Lounge. They've got a really nice pop sense and a whole set worth of cool tunes, not to mention a few Beatles covers as encores. They've got another show coming up in a few weeks that's definitely worth your time if you're in the NYC area. Michael Lynch has been doing his one-man band recordings for a few years now and "Go To Her" is his latest. Hopefully he'll also be getting back into playing out live before too long.
Leon Russell - Roll Away The Stone
There was a point in my life when I was in my very early 20's that Leon was THE MAN. There was one scene in the "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" movie where he is being interviewed by an over-zealous reporter who stuck the microphone uncomfortably close to his face and Leon, without batting an eye gently pushes his hand away while continuing to answer the question. Maybe you had to be there but at the time it was the epitome of cool. In the almost 40 years since then I've listened to a lot of music but I still find myself going back to those first few Leon Russell albums occasionally.
The Sons of Fred - Baby What You Want Me To Do
I can't for the life of me understand why this wasn't a big hit over here. With that 'Oh..oh.. see ya later" chorus this was a ready-made radio smash just waiting to happen.
The Capris - Morse Code of Love
Despite the fact that this song has been played to death on oldies radio over the last 15 years, it remains a favorite of mine that I'll never get tired of. Luckily for all of you who can't bear to hear it one more time, all these songs are individual files and that's why computers have trash bins.
Inez & Charlie Foxx - Mockingbird
Here's another ditty in the hit portion of our program as "Mockingbird" made it all the way up to number 7 on the Billboard Charts in 1963. Unfortunately many people know this song only by James Taylor and Carly Simon's lame early 70's remake. This is the real deal folks.
Couple - Lagu Cinta Untukmu
A few months ago one of my favorite bands Couple released their third album "Pop Tak Masuk Radio". Unlike their first two, this one is sung entirely in Malaysian, which proves once again that Rock & Roll is its own language. I can't understand a word (although knowing Aidil who writes their songs I'm sure the lyrics are quite poetic) yet it still sounds terrific. Anyone who wants to hear more or score a copy of the CD for yourself can check out their blog.
Joe Ely - Musta Notta Gotta Lotta
It's 9 AM and the party's just ended so forgive me if I don't look my perky best. "Musta Notta Gotta Lotta" is of my favorite odes to the Rock & Roll lifestyle. One of the things I really like about it is that unlike a lot of songs on this subject, there's no hint of that "look at me I'm so cool" vibe. And whoever the band it, they are absolutely smokin'.
The Kooks - Always Where I Need To Be
I'm so out of touch with today's mainstream pop and rock audiences that I have no clue anymore what makes a song a hit. With few exceptions, most of the new bands that I like have some degree of retro in their sound. So I hear a song like "Always...." and think how fresh it must sound blasting out of a car radio speaker and how incredibly catchy it is. Therefore it makes no sense to me that it's not a big hit and that these guys aren't huge stars. And for all I know, maybe it is and they are and I'm so out of things that I have no idea. I just know what I like.
The Falcons - I Gotta See Her
According to the Soybomb Garage Database there were at least 7 groups from various points around the globe calling themselves The Falcons back in the day. But these Falcons actually were from my home state of New York. Snotty 3-chord garage punk at its finest.
Richard Berry - Watusi
I'm guessing that this was recorded to cash in on the success of "Stranded in the Jungle" by The Cadets as it is a note-for-note copy. In fact, it might even be the exact same backing track.
The Who - Early Morning Cold Taxi
Ever since I heard "...Taxi" on some crappy sounding bootleg back in the early 80's, it's been a particular favorite of mine. It was originally recorded during the "Sell Out" sessions but for whatever reason, wasn't included on the album.
Jimmy Patton - Let Me Slide
I've already posted Jimmy Patton's two other "hits" and as I promised a few months ago, this is his third. I'm not sure if he recorded anything else but if he did, hopefully somebody like Norton or Ace will see fit to release them all together at some point.
Edgar Winter Group - Round & Round

Edgar Winter playing power pop? A few months ago my favorite DJ on Top Shelf Oldies played this song as a mystery oldie and nobody could guess who it was. Once I figured out the song title I went looking through Gemm Music to try and figure out the artist. I saw Edgar Winter Group listed and thought to myself "No way it could be them". But this is actually from the same album that gave us "Free Ride" and "Frankenstein" way back when - which means I must have heard this song at least a few times back then and forgot about it.